In the midst of coronavirus and quarantine, music has become a vector, not only of joys and feelings, as it has traditionally been, but also of the past, present and future that look uncertain and that accompany us, more than ever, in times of affinities and solitudes, rearranged houses, reinvented lives and a tomorrow to be drawn.
Without meetings, without fuss, without massive gatherings or open-air concerts, on April 30th we will once again celebrate International Jazz Day, recognized by UNESCO in 2011 for “breaking barriers, reducing tensions, promoting improvisation, stimulating dialogue” and many more virtues.
What are the hallmarks of this music-style-movement-lifestyle that breaks structures and brings us closer to each other? What does Jazz stand for, the music of spontaneity and of the joy of life? More timely than ever in these uncertain times, this improvisation genius emerges and we have the opportunity to celebrate it in a different way on April 30th.
1.- United Nations dances to Jazz
In 2011, the United Nations agency for culture, UNESCO, proclaimed this International Day to "raise public awareness about the virtues of Jazz music as an educational tool and an engine of peace." The organisation wanted "to spread the idea that it is not only a style of music, but also contributes to the construction of more inclusive societies." And they were spot on, Jazz, as its journey shows, is more a factor of union and growth than an isolated musical style that passes through the history of humanity without further ado.
Since then, International Day has been celebrated every year in various parts of the world, starting from a massive concert in a city, which extends through an agenda of activities that, like Jazz itself, goes around the entire planet. Last year it was Sydney, in Australia, in 2018 it was Saint Petersburg, and previously the chosen ones were Havana, Washington, Paris, Osaka and Istanbul.
This year the party was scheduled to start in Cape Town, South Africa, but the plan was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, there will be online celebrations. Do you want to participate? UNESCO has invited fans from all over the world to upload their videos and recordings to a huge virtual platform. Here you have the link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/KVOSKmU6cVJuPTl1FvjZ
2.- An engine of peace
There are not many musical styles of global reach that have remained in time and space since their origins and that continue to evolve and contain that component of creativity, vitality and community that Jazz houses.
There are several theories about the true exact origin of this "engine of peace", but what almost all agree on is that it was born in the late 19th century in the southern United States, especially in New Orleans, within the African American community.
It seems that black slaves in the United States, torn from their native Africa, began to sing while they were working accompanied by their working tools and some years later, during the Civil War (1861-1865), they found instruments on the battlefield they started playing creating a new style.
In this context, ragtime was born and from there, working with wind and percussion instruments combined with pianos, drums and double basses, a first New Orleans jazz style emerged (black) and the so-called Dixieland (white), where the trumpet played a primary role.
When, during the First World War, the armed forces closed the city, many of these musicians, black and white, emigrated to cities such as Chicago, New York or Kansas City and spread the new style throughout the national territory.
It was the 20s, the time of Louis Armstrong with the Hot Five and Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers, a decade full of extravagances, skirting the Prohibition act, mafia and proliferation of concerts, and when there were many underground bars that under the guise of a restaurant or club, served alcohol and circumvented the law.
These venues became a hotbed of jazz improvisations, intense dance evenings and the roar of big bands, and the style was linked to a certain prohibition, which imbued it with a clandestine air that contributed in part to that in the following years it will be consolidated as the style of the moment.
3.- Evolution, transformation and adapting to new times
Since then it has not stopped evolving, growing and declining. After the Second World War it derived in a style where there was room for experimentation, dance, - it is the moment of Lindy Hop -, and in which the musicians gave free rein to their creativity, imagination, and improvisation. The bebop was born.
In the late 1940s, Cool Jazz emerged in NY, the starting point of which was Miles Davis' album, “Birth of the Cool,” recorded in 1949 and since then it has never ceased to evolve and transform. Years later, hard pop and free jazz blew up the established rules, and Latin Jazz, Soul jazz, Funk, and Jazz Rock, which combined the magic of improvisation with the binary and energetic rhythms of Rock and Pop music, followed them throughout the 20th century.
Not so many years ago that electronic instruments entered the equation, merging with flamenco, with rap…. it seems that its adaptability is infinite and getting richer. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic on a confined planet, we are already wondering about the next turn it will take.
Perhaps the new world that could open up after COVID-19 marks a new revolution. For now, we have to wait until April 30th to honour International Day and start already listening to jazz to celebrate it. Do you know any jazz playlist to dance? Do you dare to forecast how Jazz will evolve? ...
4.- Our playlist to listen during the quarantine
Madame Dynamite has selected for you some jazz albums that we consider essential. It was not easy at all, characters are missing, some eras are not represented ... but they are records that we like, that we believe are capital and that invite us to live, dance and face these uncertain times. We have organized them by instruments and styles and, if the confinement continues and so that the quarantine is more bearable, we will give you a more complete list so that you add a little colour to these days:
1.- Big bands: “Duke Ellington: Ellington At Newport (Columbia)”, y “Count Basie: The Complete Atomic Basie (Roulette)”
2.- Trumpet: “Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool (Capitol)”, and “Louis Armstrong: Best Of The Hot 5s And 7s (Columbia)”.
3.- Guitar: “Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery (Riverside)”, and “Charlie Christian: The Genius Of The Electric Guitar (Columbia)”
4.- Piano: “Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters (Columbia)”, and “Erroll Garner: Concert By The Sea (Columbia)”
6.- Vocalists: “Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong: Ella and Louis (Verve)”, and “Billie Holiday: Lady in Satin (Columbia)”